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  • Writer's pictureSensei Jay

No Apology Necessary

October 24, 2022


Please welcome two new kids to the Homeschool program. If you want more information on this program, check out our website here. Vivian has been visiting from another dojo and she has become sort of a regular here so please welcome her to our Adult program. She has already invited her friend, Melena, to try class. Last but not least, please welcome Vincent to our Adult program and a youngster to our 4–6 year-old program.

What’s Happenin’

  • Fall Seminar at ASNJ – Saturday, October 29, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. We will be hosting Sensei Wee-Wow Dumlao for an all-day seminar starting 10 am. Potluck immediately after. More details to follow.

  • Halloween class – Monday, October 31, 7:00 pm. Everyone join us for class. Leave your gi at home, wear a costume. I’ve got a really good one year. And I can roll in it.

  • Lehrman Shihan – Wednesday, November 9, 7:00 pm. Lehrman Shihan teaches the second Wednesday of each month.

  • Veterans Day class - Friday November 11th at 7:00. The class will be taught by the members of ASNJ who have served. Please join us to help celebrate the service they have done for us. There will be light refreshments after class.

  • Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Introductory Seminar with Sensei Paul Manogue at Aikido of Park Slope – Saturday, November 19, 1:30 – 4:30 pm.

  • Kyu Tests and Holiday PartySaturday Dec 10: 2:00 pm: Wheel of Ukemi. 3:30 pm: Kyu tests. 4:30: Potluck party. If you wish to test, you MUST speak to Frank, Danny or Derrell to get permission. If you do not, you will not be allowed to test.

Shihan Wee-Wow Dumlao

Just ONE week away!! We are hosting Sensei Wee-Wow Dumlao at our Fall Seminar on Saturday, October 29 starting at 10:00 am. All classes are canceled this day. You can pre-register through this link.

When Up is Down

In Tai Chi Chuan class this week, we did an old exercise I remembered from decades ago at my school, Northeastern Tai Chi Chuan Associatoin. It reinforces my favorite adage about Tai Chi Chuan: The exercise shows you how woefully weak your legs are. Your partner places their hands on your hips and steadily pushes you. As you shift back, you lower your height by bending your legs (that thing that everyone ‘loves’ to do) and turn your waist so your attacker lifts their weight up and falls to the side. Sound easy? Better have strong legs, a relaxed waist, and be non-confrontational (How’s that for a martial art for old people you see doing it in the park?).

This is a basic idea in some martial arts (Tai Chi Chuan, Aikido, Judo, etc.): If you and your partner’s centers of gravity are at the same height coming toward each other, this is clashing. Force against force (talk about a Big Bang Theory). We change that dynamic by lowering our center below our attacker’s. We miss each other avoiding the collision. The ultimate goal is to lower your center into your foot (but this is advanced and achieved after many years of practice). Here, we bend our legs until we are lower. This idea is best demonstrated in koshinage (ogoshi, if you do Judo). If your hips (center) are at the same plane or higher than your uke, you need to lift them to throw them (this is the more difficult way to avoid the clash of center). If you have your waist lower, they literally fall over you. Think of that obnoxious thing you did in 5th grade when a person went on their hands and knees behind a friend (the victim) and you pushed them backwards. They went boom.

This exercise is a simple, nonconfrontational experiment where you can experience this concept. The turning waist is the Tai Chi Chuan version of ‘getting off the line.’ Like koshi, when you are lower, uke falls over you, they go up and over. So, if you want your attacker to go up, you go down. Then gravity takes over and uke goes boom, like 5th grade.

The Brothers Morrow

Weekends at the dojo are filled with Aikido, pizza, kids laughing, and dojo work. Dojo work you ask? A dojo does not run itself. Besides scheduling a clean-up day for the seminar (you thought the place always looks this good?) I had the Morrow boys helping to correct something that has bothered me for years. We had a mixture of beautiful Belgium blocks at the entrance and cheap red patio blocks. The three ‘yoots’ and I replaced the red block with all Belgium blocks and widened the walkway. We also tossed the old shelves and rearranged the couches. Thanks to Frank for donating the new couch that everyone loves. Tom came in on Sunday to help change one of the lights to a LED fixture furthering our goal of having only LED lights in the dojo. Lastly, a huge gaggle of ASNJ Aikidoka came in on Sunday to clean the dojo for the seminar. We even cleaned and dusted behind the kamaza and through out the pile of rocks. Thanks all for your help especially my underage workforce.

No Apology Necessary

I sometimes work with a student who apologizes every time they do a technique incorrectly. Can we talk? (Obviously, this is a one-way letter so we can’t, but I wanted you to appreciate the level of interpersonal dialogue I am trying to engage in in my letters. Nice? At least I am funny. Or so I hope.) The dojo is a safe place to experiment. A lab with a lot of safeguards. Being wrong is good (Unwillingly agreed to by every married man. [Ed. Note: This is not funny.]). That is how you learn. While instruction is important, this is an experiential practice; you learn by trial and error. You need to experience the wrong to understand the right. I always ‘thank’ my uke when my technique fails. They just gave me an opportunity to learn. The next time you feel the need to apologize to your partner, thank them. Let me know how that works for you.

Why We Train – Part Two

This has nothing in relationship to the Why We Train from last week’s letter except it does. Aikido is a path, not a destination. I was talking to an Aikido student, and they were telling me about how they practice and all I could think was they were practicing ‘Repetition.’ They were doing the same thing over and over to get better at the same thing. You know Freud’s definition of Insanity? “Repeating the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.” This inspired me. I needed to put the idea into a simple phrase. I thought using ‘Aikido is Practice vs Repetition,’ but practice was not the right word. It did not include the idea of change or development. I needed to come up with the perfect way to say this.

Delving deeper, I thought in Aikido you study yourself: body, mind, and spirit. You learn technique by repeating it but once you learn it, explore it in as many variations as you can. If you look at any basic technique, it can be done Omote (front), Ura (behind), Uichi (inside), Soto (outside), Irimi (enter), Tenshen (withdraw), and probably a whole bunch of Japanese words I don’t know (Where is Paul Manogue when you need him? At the seminar in Brooklyn on November 19th, that’s where.). Every technique has various methods and you adjust each for every uke: a tall or short partner; one leaning forwards or backwards…... You get the idea: Aikido is a practice but ‘Practice’ does not convey the whole of what I am trying to say regarding Repetition.

I asked my wife for her thoughts as she is an artist and she said ‘Creativity vs Repetition,’ but that is only part of what I was thinking of. I asked Jacob, my actor son, who thought of ‘Rehearsing vs Repeating’ but that did not have the idea of evolving so that did not encompass my thought. ‘Evolving vs Repeating’? I was nowhere nearer to the answer. I asked Hal who offered ‘Beginner’s Mind vs Repetition.’ That was also another part of what I was looking for but it did not encompass the whole idea. ‘Studying vs Repeating’? With the help of all these people, I was able to put together more and more ideas to my ‘Fill in the Blank vs Repetition’ but none truly got what I was looking for. I tried a thesaurus (There is no other word for ‘thesaurus’ by the way. Think about that.)

Then it came to me while talking to Hal. The answer was…. all the thinking, the exploring, the discussions, the exploration, the looking for the perfect word, that was it. The answer I am looking for in ‘Fill in the Blank vs Repetition’ is not what ‘Fill in the Blank’ is, but looking for the answer is the answer. The word is unimportant. The exploration of looking for it is the goal. The exploration is why we do Aikido, not for the answer, not for the throw, not for the result, but for the experience looking and studying and rehearsing and exploring and whatever other ‘Fill in the Blank’ you add to this. It is always about the process and not the result. There is no need to apologize.

--Jay Tall

Sensei, Aikido Schools of NJ

“There are times when you may be overwhelmed by the teachings of the Way. At such moments, it is important to continue with the original spirit of a beginner.”

-- Morehei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido

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